A recent report found that for smartphone users apps are 6 times more popular than web browsers; for tablet (such as the iPad) the difference is less extreme - only a 60/40 split - but still prevalent:
The study, conducted in April 2011, found that on smartphones, apps were used 85% of the time, but the Web browser was used just 15% of the time. On tablets, apps were still popular, but were used just 61% of the time as compared with Web browsing, which was used 39% of the time.There are two key takeaways on this:
- There is a difference in the way smartphones and tablets are used. Not a surprising conclusion, but an important one to bear in mind when developing your mobile strategy.
- People prefer dedicated apps for specific, common tasks. Many of the apps that are "more popular" than web surfing and email are, essentially, just narrowly-focused versions of web surfing and email. For example, people prefer using the LinkedIn app to accessing LinkedIn via the web browser, even though both offer ostensibly the same capabilities.
I can verify the second point through my own experiences. There are several online resources I use very frequently, that currently do not have an app. Accessing them via browser is becoming problematic because it interferes with other, non-reoccurring web use; it is hard to save my in-progress work, for example, because every time I open a new link I loose my place.
This is important to bear in mind when deciding whether to create an app or a mobile website. If you expect customers to use your tools on a regular basis it may be worth creating a dedicated app, even if it is just a specialized web browser.